Tuesday, December 18, 2007

DCS In Hot Water Over Muncie Child Abuse Case

Unfortunately, the errors and omissions which led to the death of Tajanay Bailey's death appear not to be an isolated case. A 3-month-old infant is recovering from injuries consistent with shaken baby syndrome after DCS agreed with a juvenile court judge in Muncie to return the child, who DCS had earlier taken into protective custody, back into the home. DCS had removed the child after the mother violently stabbed the father in the home on November 10 during a domestic dispute. The father has been criminally charged in connection with injuries sustained by the infant just last week. He claimed he accidentally injured the child when he accidentally fell on him. The Muncie Star-Press reports:

A safety plan and orders for extensive counseling were in place when a local juvenile court judge returned a 3-month-old infant to the custody of his parents last month.

The child, Jawaun Henley, was listed in fair condition Monday at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, suffering from injuries authorities say are consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

Meanwhile, the baby's father, Curtis L. Henley, 35, continued to be held without bond in the Delaware County jail, preliminarily charged with aggravated battery, neglect of a dependent and obstruction of justice. Henley, arrested last Friday, told authorities he shook his son after accidentally falling on him. During a Monday interview, Delaware County Juvenile Court Judge Brian Pierce said protections were in place when he ordered the return of Jawaun Henley to his parents -- Melissa A. Overbay, 21, and Henley -- in the wake of a Nov. 10 domestic dispute that allegedly saw the mother stab the father.

And Pierce said the Indiana Department of Child Services did not object to the placement, agreeing with the safety plan and intensive in-home counseling services to be provided by Meridian Services three days a week.

The judge, who has been on the juvenile bench since last spring, wanted to clarify reports that DCS raised concerns about placing the infant back in a home where Overbay was accused of stabbing Henley. Formal charges have not been filed in connection with the Nov. 10 incident.

A doctor at Riley Hospital for Children, Robert Hibbard, advised the injuries to the Henley infant's brain and ribs were "non-accidental," according to a probable cause affidavit that led to Curtis Henley's arrest.

The elder Henley has denied intentionally hurting his son. A preliminary hearing in his case is set for Wednesday.

Citing the confidentiality of juvenile court records, Pierce would not release a transcript of the Henley hearing without a petition and court order. And he would not discuss details of the safety plan or counseling.

DCS officials also declined to say what they did to protect the Henley infant, citing the same confidentiality rules.

"We cannot discuss specific cases," said DCS spokesman Susan Tielking.

Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney last week called the case "the worst-case scenario of everybody's nightmare."

WTHR's Rich van Wyk also reported on this case on this evening's news broadcast. His report indicated doctors at Riley Hospital had determined that the child had also suffered broken ribs from an earlier injury, which have subsequently healed. He says the father nearly bled to death from the November stabbing committed by his wife, but he declined to press charges against her.


Anonymous said...

Once again, Mitch Daniels and his appointees and their private contractors....thumb their nose at our children.

Doug said...

I like to bag on Daniels, given half a chance, but I doubt you can hang this on him in particular. My (perhaps mistaken) opinion of government child welfare organizations is that they are grim, no-win affairs. They always seem underfunded, but it's never clear that all the money in the world would necessarily do any good. It doesn't seem like they can ever make situations "good," merely less bad.

I haven't done any more than read the headlines on this case. What's the view of the government employees' actions in this case? Is there any hint that they had any actual malice toward this case?

Or, was it more like caseworkers with too many files not paying much attention and not having very many good options returning a child to a dirtbag parent?

garyj said...

Maybe if Payne would put the children over the budget, this wouldn't happen.
Another reason I feel thatthe adoption process in Indiana, (and the US) should be overhauled.
I realize that all adoptive parents are not going to be perfect, but at tleast they actually WANT the children in their homes for the love and not the "next check"

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that children have to get seriously injured or die for the people of this State to sit up and take notice of the debacle that is DCS.

State mandated programs and policies that have historically been paid for out of county budgets (that is changing however).

A disparity in how judges from county to county view and rule on CHINS cases.

An antiquated view that the biological home is best for a child.

The list goes on and on. The only thing to do is dump the current system, and start with fresh ideas and policies. Get rid of the entrenched bureaucrats that run things and perhaps institute regional courts that will follow the same guidelines and not be beholden to the political machinations that exist at the county level.

As a side note, the doctor at Riley Hospital is Roberta Hibbard, not Robert. I have known and worked with her in the past, and she is one of the foremost experts in child abuse.

Anonymous said...

Look, it's this simple (and Doug has a point, EXCEPT:)

The agency charged with this duty is in shambles. Really, it's a bureaucratic nightmare, and always has been. A house of sand built on quicksand foundation.

So, the entire mess needs overhauled, or there will be more Tajanays. And, sadly, there have
been many, many more that don't get the headlines.

So, when you become governor, to whom do you turn for leadership in this mess? A juvenile judge who ran a tightly-controlled personal fiefdom over at 25th/Keystone for two decades. A man who jealously guarded his power, and on whose watch juveniles were routinely shaken down and assaulted while in custody. Remember that little Juvy guard scandal last year? It was commonplace for over a decade under Jim Payne.

And the man threw himself a going-away party with over $2,000 in county funds.

The hubris is astounding. The arrogance is ridiculous. And the malfeasance is overwhelming.

How long does the drumbeat need to go on? Why is Jim Payne still employed by taxpayers?

No, this is not a gisgruntled former employee of Payne's.

Just a sad taxpayer.

Payne doesn't deserve criticism for the agency's mess he inherited. But he's a no-nonsense boss, and he could've instituted some changes. And clearly he hasn't.

He must go. Yesterday.

And while I'm at it, even though I'm a Democrat, pray for and hope for Payne's juvenile court successor, Marilyn Moores. She deserves combat pay for jumping in to straighten out the mess Payne left. She's making slow but steady progress.

She deserves our full support.

Jim Payne, if you had a shred of decency, you'd resign. Mitch, if you had a shred of integrity, you'd fire this horse's ass.